Steamed Bacon Buns

I have a confession to make: the first time I ate a steamed (pork) bun was last year. March, to be exact, when I attended the Tourism Australia luncheon. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first–it looked…anemic. Where was my golden crust? Why did it look under-baked? Why would I want to consume that? There was something wrong with it, for sure. But as everyone else dug in, I knew I’d look like a fool if I begged off. I had to try it.

Steamed Bacon Buns

I am so glad I did, because what a world that was opened up to me that day! Wow! Since then, I’ve had pork buns when I’ve come across them, but the opportunities have been few and far between. I don’t know of anywhere I go locally that I can get them. And my trips to NYC aren’t as frequent as I’d like.

So, when it was proposed that we make steamed buns for #FirstOnTheFirst, I was cautiously elated. Thrilled that I’d have a chance to make my own at home. Terrified that I’d be making my own at home. What business did I have embarking upon a culinary journey like this? I knew nothing about steamed buns. But I had to try.

Steamed Bacon Buns

Steamed buns are also known as bao. My favorite fillings I’ve found have been on the porky side–including these bacon buns–but they can also contain sweet bean paste, chicken, etc. Typically they are steamed in bamboo baskets, but I already have enough specialized kitchen equipment; I wasn’t buying more. I can tell you this–the steamer basket on your rice cooker is not the best option. Go with a steamer basket in a regular pot with a little water and cover–this works remarkably well and is quick, too. Leftover bao can be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for longer. You can re-steam them to freshen them up, or pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, making them a fantastic option for work lunches. Or breakfast. Whichever.

Steamed Bacon Buns

They do take some time, though. The dough needs to rise for 2 hours. And you can only steam so many at a time (in my case, 4). All told, it was about 3 hours from start to finish, and that was on a work night. I was tired at the end, but extremely proud of myself. And a bit addicted. It probably wasn’t a great idea to eat 1.5 steamed bacon buns and then start my exercise for the night. Oops. Next time I’ll stash them for the week following and spread the love out a bit.

Want to check out some more steamed buns? You know you do!

#FirstOnTheFirst Steamed Buns

Now… for my version. I discovered the cutest tutorial ever on my name is yeh and I couldn’t resist! Truly–you must check it out! The bacon caught my attention, that’s true, but those adorable little buns smiling and snoozing won my heart. I had to try her recipe–or, at least, a riff off of it. I’m so glad I was enticed by her cute little buns, for this is now a keeper! Some sweet heat balanced by soft pillows of dough and bacon, of course. This might be the best food ever. You owe it to yourself to try them!

Steamed Bacon Buns

Next month, we’ll be making Beef Wellington. I really need my head examined. If you’d like to participate in the insanity, check out the First on the First tab for details. We’d love to have you!

Steamed Bacon Buns
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 12
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup warm whole milk
  • ¼ cup Spectrum organic shortening
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  1. Combine the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  2. Mix on low (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) until combined and watch that the dough becomes smooth and slightly sticky--it should adhere to the bottom of the bowl while kneading. If it's too sticky, you can add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, waiting until it's incorporated before adding any more. If the dough is too dry, you can add warm water 1 Tablespoon at a time.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes, then transfer to a clean bowl.
  4. Cover and keep in a warm, draft-free place to allow the dough to rise til doubled in size, about 2 hours. (I turn my oven on the lowest temperature for a few minutes, turn it off, leave the light on and put the bowl there.)
  5. During the last hour of the dough rising, combine the bacon, water, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, and red pepper flakes in a medium sauce pan.
  6. Cook over medium heat until it starts to boil.
  7. Remove 3 Tablespoons of the fluid, add to it the cornstarch, and whisk til combined.
  8. Pour back into the bacon mixture, stir, and continue cooking until thickened. Set aside to cool.
  9. Cut out 12 parchment squares for the next stage...
  10. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  11. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces.
  12. Flatten 1 piece of dough into a disc, put 2-3 teaspoons bacon filling in the center, and gather the edges up in the middle, pinching to seal, so you have a little packet of meat.
  13. Place on a prepared baking sheet and pop in the warm oven to wait until ready to steam.
  14. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
  15. Fill a large sauce pan with 2-3 inches of water, place in it the steamer basket, and place 4 parchment squares in the basket. Put buns on top of the parchment squares, cover, and cook on medium-high temperature, steaming for 10 minutes.
  16. Check that the exterior of the buns has hardened a bit and isn't sticky. Cook for a couple more minutes, if necessary, then transfer to wire racks.
  17. Repeat with remaining buns.
  18. Eat warm; if cooled, re-steam or microwave for 30 seconds before consuming.


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  1. I’m so impressed, and have to admit, I was totally skeptical about the taste of these which didn’t help when I didn’t know when I was going to make these this month…your enthusiasm for them has convinced me I at least need to order one somewhere when the chance arises 🙂

    1. It took a lot of courage to eat one the first time, so I get that. And even after I made my own, I was very nervous. But then I couldn’t stop eating them. I think you’d enjoy it!

    • Jenn {Go Running, Mama!} on February 1, 2014 at 3:42 pm
    • Reply


  2. Love the bacon spin on these steamed buns! That right there is delicious dangerousness. Love that we tackled this together this month. I really loved them! And secret be told … I’d NEVER had them before! But now I’m in love and I need to go get some from a professional.

    1. If it has bacon, then it’s for me! 😉 I’m glad I’m not the only one late to the game with steamed buns. Next time you’re in NYC, there are a lot of fantastic options!

  3. The word steam really got all my attention! I love this recipe, will replace the meat with veggies !

    1. The filling is totally interchangeable with infinite possibilities. Something I really love about this project! Hope you enjoy them!

  4. We had steamed buns a couple years ago when we visited Japan. My husband has been obsessed with them ever since! So I finally tried a month or so ago, and failed 🙁 He wants me to keep trying though, so I’ll for sure be trying your bacon filled buns! Your recipe looks a little easier than the last one I tried too.

    1. I was a little overwhelmed at the thought of making them but it truly was quite easy. Just give yourself enough time so you’re not rushing and you’ll do just fine!

  5. bacon buns forever!!!!!! yours look amazing 🙂


    1. They’re nowhere near as cute as yours though! 🙂 Thank you!

  6. O-M-G…these look amazing!! I love the addition of bacon to your buns!

  7. I have been wanting to make these for some time now. You may have just given me the push I needed. 🙂 They look very tasty.

  8. Carrie, I have never even considered trying to make steamed buns, but with your instructions, I think I could. I love the ingredients (sriracha sauce, yes!), and I enjoy working with yeast breads, so I may have to try this! I’d love for you to share this at Treasure Box Tuesday today! 🙂

    • Anne | The Chef's Wife on February 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm
    • Reply

    Never heard of these before …. so unique and look/sound so delicious too!

  9. I’ve never had steamed buns before…I’d probably have the same initial thought you did haha…but you have my interest peeked.

    1. Like I said, they look weird but the flavor is amazing! I should make a batch of these every week for quick and easy lunches.

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